Despite how most yearn for to have a go at it, dreams and aspirations rarely see the light of day. Life and the responsibilities around it just come in the way. But that was not to be for these three culinary wonders in the city, who chose to break away from their settled routines to build the career paths they always dreamed of. The marketer chef-Shreya Sachar of ‘Scuti by Shreya’ 33-year-old Shreya Sachar grew up in a family of restaurateurs. Her maternal grandfather owned two established eateries in Kolkata, which inspired her a great deal and planted in her the passion of cooking and baking right from her childhood. Her ardour for the craft made one think that she would grow up into that profession. However, Shreya wasn’t to take up culinary arts until recently. She completed her MBA at the University of Liverpool and then joined the marketing sector. But despite her well-established job, a voice inside her head constantly said, “This was not it.” “That thought would keep popping up in my head, and I just kept feeling like none of what I was doing then was my calling. I remember wanting to venture into the culinary line and did a short stint at the Mauryas in Delhi just to try my hand at it. It gave me the confidence I needed. And I ended up taking a nine-month course at Le Cordon Bleu in London,” Shreya recalls.
After returning from London, Shreya worked at the Oberois Gurgaon, New Delhi. Creating new and innovative desserts for the Sunday brunch became a weekly affair for Shreya, who impressed all the chefs around her with her talent.
But this was still not it for Shreya. She wished for her own space and a company of her own — to be a restaurateur like her grandfather, a thought she discussed with him. “He was extremely excited about it. At the same time, he warned me that it wouldn’t be an easy road. I knew he wasn’t trying to scare me but to teach me everything he’d learned over the many years in the industry. Though he isn’t with us anymore, he continues to be my biggest inspiration,” says Shreya. Three years ago, Shreya started ‘Scuti’ in Delhi. At first, the home-baker took orders for wedding favours and baby showers. In 2017, the baker moved to Hyderabad owing to personal reasons. Once here, She began tapping into IT and corporate sectors. The gamble paid off, and today, her biggest customers are the youngsters in the city. “I soon moved from cakes and baked goods to healthier options like granola bars. People these days are largely concerned about their health, which makes these bars extremely popular too,” explains Shreya. Shreya has come a long way. While her baked goods and health mixes have become extremely popular in a short span, Shreya’s efforts and passion continue to inspire those around her.
Another person with a common thread of starting late in the culinary world is mother of two, Sailaja Kancherla. Always passionate about baking, the lady with a sweet tooth initially just followed where life took her, until she realised that her passion for food was actually her calling too. Sailaja grew up in Hyderabad. After she was done with school, she completed her MBA from Edinburgh Business School. When she got back, knowing it was expected for her to take on the family business, she did just that. But she found no romance in the work she had committed to. Then marriage happened. Post two children and the numerous culinary escapades for them, it finally hit Sailaja how much she loved cooking. “And one day, I realised that I wanted to pursue it as a career option,” recollects Sailaja.
Finding her game
Quite like Shreya, Sailaja, too, decided to take up a short course at Le Cordon Bleu London. “It was probably something I should have done in my 20s instead of doing it at 35, which was how old I was then,” says Sailaja with a chuckle. Her very supportive husband took up looking after their kids while she was away for the course’s nine months. During the course, Sailaja drew her inspirations from Chef Julie, her teacher at Le Cordon Bleu in London, where the majority of teachers were men. Soon, she found the science of baking becoming a creative avenue for her. Post her course in London, Sailaja returned to Hyderabad with the spunk and passion to start off something on her own. A close friend, who was a home baker by profession, was moving to Dubai. “We spoke and decided that I would take over her business in 2018 after she left. There has been no looking back since,” Sailaja adds, smiling. Challenges have been many, but Sailaja has taken up each with grace. For instance, initially, she found it difficult to find a targeted workforce who’d understand her ideas and concepts. But over the months, claims the baker, they’ve become like a family.
Hyderabad-based Pooja Reddy had moved to Dubai to take up Computer Science Engineering. But she returned to Hyderabad in 2011, knowing in her heart that she didn’t want to go back to what she was doing. Then after a brief two-year stint in advertising in Hyderabad, in 2015, she found a job ad by Conçu’s, calling for someone to take on their social media. Conçu’s had been a popular name among Hyderabad residents since its first store in Banjara Hills. So Pooja joined the group. She worked with them for three years, all the while harbouring dreams of having her own restaurant someday.
Following the signs
In 2019, the patisserie offered its first franchise to Pooja, and she didn’t need to think twice. “I’d always dreamt of running a restaurant of my own and when I was asked to run Conçu’s first franchise, it was like a sign that my dream was about to come true,” Pooja recalls. While she began working at Conçu’s, Pooja realised her love for the food sector. “I come from a family of great cooks. I might not have learnt how to cook, but I definitely learnt how to eat and love food,” says the 30-year-old jokingly. Then again, Pooja credits her mother for the inspirations and cooking lessons. “She’s one who got me interested in baking and taught me all that I know today,” adds Pooja.
Challenges in the galley
Being an entrepreneur comes with its challenges. And life has been a roller coaster for Pooja since she began managing the cafe. “There is never a dull day at work,” she concludes with a smile.